All Texas declared Disaster Area

SUBHEAD: Draught and wildfires decimate Texeas agland. Entire state declared a "train wreck".  

By Staff on 29 June 2011 for Huffington Post -  

Image above: From (

Drought and wildfires have lead to the decision by the US Department of Agriculture to declare the entire state of Texas a natural disaster.

KCBD in Lubbock reports that in all, 213 counties in Texas have lost at least 30 percent of their crops or pasture.

The disaster declaration will allow farmers and ranchers to qualify for emergency loans at lower interest rates.

"This is a disaster," Texas farmer Scott Harmon said. "This is a train wreck."

Mike Swain, who farms south of Brownfield, told the Lubbock Avalanche Journal that loans aren't what he's looking for.

"I will be real honest, I don't need a loan - I need rain," Swain said.

Ranchers have also been hurt by the drought, Swain noted.

"A lot of people have lost their livestock, their homes, their fencing," he said. .

Abercrombie Pimps Pohakuloa

SUBHEAD: The best way to clean up contamination, including radiation, is to not make the mess in the first place.  

By Shannon Rudolph on 30 June 2011 via email - (

Image above: From (

Dear Governor Abercrombie,

It was so nice of you to consult with the West Hawaii community before you started pimping us for a Marine base. I know you've got a few business owners licking their chops, but what of the larger community? I think you will find many, many residents opposed to this proposal. There are many very good reasons why the Okinawans want this base out of Okinawa, for the very same reasons most in Guam do not want the base either; high crime rates among young recruits, domestic abuse, prostitution, drugs, violence, traffic, the toxic contamination of the land, and other serious problems.

 The future of West Hawaii and all of Hawaii for that matter, depend on clean air, land, and water, plus a low crime rate. Don't blow our future with this very stupid idea, especially without asking the average resident, who will pay dearly.

There is no way the community of West Hawaii can handle, or wants, "tens of thousands of Marines" moving here, (according to it would completely ruin our town. Please get this stupid idea out of your head, pronto. And by the way, please get us some reliable data on the depleted uranium radiation at Pohakuloa. I hear from several professionals that the Army monitoring for DU used filters that were ten times too big. Take charge and get us some real answers that we can believe in and make the military clean up the horrendous mess they've already left us.

Remember, the easiest and cheapest way to clean up toxic contamination, including radiation, is to not make the mess in the first place. No military base in West Hawaii or huge expansion of Pohakuloa!

Abercrombie: Pohakuloa vs. Guam  

By Dennis Hollier on 2 June 2011 for Hawaii Business Blogs - 

There’s been quite a bit of press regarding the latest Rand report, which was officially released yesterday at a HIPA breakfast presentation at Hilton Hawaiian Village. The report attempts to quantify the effects of military spending on the Hawaii economy, and the numbers are astonishing:
  • More than $6.5 billion in annual spending
  • $12.2 billion in cumulative effect
  • 101,533 jobs
But the most provocative announcement at the Hilton yesterday wasn’t made by the folks from Rand. The big news – oddly missing from media reports – was Gov. Abercrombie’s pronouncements about current plans (now largely underway) to move tens of thousands of Marines from Okinawa. “The idea was to take the Marines out of Okinawa and move them to Guam,” Abercrombie said. “But there’s no way that’s going to work.”

According to the Governor, Guam’s all wrong. “They don’t have the infrastructure; they don’t have the capacity; they don’t have the space to train; and they don’t have the EIS. It’s not going to work.” And, of course, he has an alternative in mind: Pohakuloa on the Big Island.

After all, he points out, Pohakuloa is already a major training facility; it’s near the Pacific Command and the resources of Pearl Harbor and Schofield Barracks; and, most importantly, it’s in Hawaii. That’s particularly important in today’s all volunteer military, where retention is as important as recruitment.

The Governor wryly considered the preferences of young soldiers: “You ask them where they want to end up, on Guam, or on the Kona Coast?” Of course, Abercrombie’s remarks – especially before this audience – were strategic.

First, he pointed out that the current arrangement of U.S. military resources – in a crescent that runs up the West Coast, through Alaska and the Aleutians, and down through Japan and Korea – is an artifact of the Cold War, when our focus was on the Soviet Union. “Today, we need to think of it as bowl,” he said, gesturing with his fingers to indicate an arc running from California, through Hawaii, and reaching all the way to the Indian Ocean.

Not coincidentally, that’s pretty much the jurisdiction of the Pacific Command. But the Governor’s gambit to try to pick Guam’s pocket is really about securing Hawaii’s economic future. As he pointed out, one of the findings in the Rand report was that nearly a third of all DOD procurement spending in Hawaii was in construction, mostly in housing development. But that spending is gradually coming to an end.

Abercrombie clearly sees developing Pohakuloa for the Marines as a way to sustain the growth of military spending in the state. It’s a bold vision. But it may be impossible to change the military’s plans at this late date. Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been poured into Guam to set the move in motion. And nothing has as much momentum as the U.S. military on a mission. Still, the Governor gave the impression this was a bone he’s going to chew on. “We cannot sit by passively and wait for decisions to be made for us,” he said. “We have to be thinking proactively.”

So, to borrow a military metaphor, maybe this is just the first salvo in what will be a long fusillade. We’ll see. .

Clinical LSD Study Completed

SUBHEAD: The final subject in the first clinical LSD study since 1972 just completed his last treatment.  

By David Jay Brown on 27 May 2011 for Santa Cruz Patch - 

Image above: Portrait of Albert Hoffman with LSD nmolecule by Alex Gray. From (
The first clinical LSD study on the planet in more than 35 years is almost complete. The Santa Cruz Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is sponsoring this research, which began in 2008, when Swiss psychiatrist Peter Gasser, M.D., became the first medical researcher in the world to obtain government approval to do therapeutic research with LSD since 1972.

Before 1972, nearly 700 studies with LSD and other psychedelic drugs were conducted. This research suggested that LSD has remarkable medical potential. LSD-assisted psychotherapy was shown to reduce the anxiety of terminal cancer patients, the drinking of alcoholics and the symptoms of many difficult-to-treat psychiatric illnesses.

For example, early LSD studies with advanced-stage cancer patients showed that LSD-assisted psychotherapy could alleviate symptoms of anxiety, tension, depression, sleep disturbances, psychological withdrawal and even severe physical pain. Other early investigators found that LSD may have some valuable potential as a means to facilitate creativity, problem-solving abilities and spiritual awareness.

Between 1972 and 1990 there were no government-approved human studies with any psychedelic drugs anywhere in the world. Their disappearance was no mystery. The worldwide ban on psychedelic drug research was the result of a political backlash that followed the promotion of these drugs by the counterculture of the 1960s. This reaction not only made these substances illegal for personal use, it also made it extremely difficult for medical researchers to obtain government approval to study them.

The situation began to change in 1990 when, according to MAPS president Rick Doblin, “open-minded regulators at the FDA decided to put science before politics when it came to psychedelic and medical marijuana research.” There are now more than a half-dozen clinical studies occurring worldwide that are examining the medical potential of psychedelic drugs.

Gasser’s almost-completed, MAPS-sponsored LSD study is being conducted in Switzerland, where LSD was discovered in 1943 by Albert Hofmann. The study examines how LSD-assisted psychotherapy affects the anxiety associated with suffering from an advanced, life-threatening illness. There are 12 subjects in the study with advanced-stage cancer and other serious illnesses.

According to Gasser, so far the results look promising. Early researchers found that LSD-assisted psychotherapy has the incredible ability to help many people overcome their fear of death, and this is probably a major contributing factor in why the drug can be so profoundly helpful when people are facing a life-threatening illness.

On May 26, the final subject in Gasser’s study completed his last experimental therapy session. The clinical team at MAPS is now conducting a preliminary data analysis, finalizing the study’s database for the FDA and assisting Gasser in preparing a manuscript for publication.

MAPS is also sponsoring other medical research into the psychotherapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs, and more studies are on the way. The medical and therapeutic value of LSD and other psychedelic drugs appears to be quite substantial—although, personally, I’m really looking forward to the day when this research can go beyond its initial potential as a psychotherapeutic tool, as well as a spiritual aid, and delve into the mysteries of creativity, psychic phenomena and the possible reality of parallel universes and non-human entity contact.

Meanwhile, it seems like these mysterious substances hold enormous potential for treating numerous psychiatric disorders. Evidence suggests that they have the ability to help us treat post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, end-of-life anxiety, cluster headaches and other difficult-to-treat mental disorders—including, I suspect, the general neurosis that comes from simply being a human being.

To read the interview that I did with LSD researcher Peter Gasser, see:

To find out more about MAPS and medical research into psychedelic drugs, see:

If you enjoy my column, and want to learn more about psychedelic and cannabis culture, “like” my Facebook page:

and follow me on Twitter:!/DavidJayBrown


Lepeuli Beach Access Surprise

SUBHEAD: DLNR stuns Kauai Planning Commission with its interpretation of access trail at Lepeuli Beach. By Hope Kallai on 29 June 2011 for Free Larson's Beach - ( Image above: Bruce Laymon (r.) and crew putting up illegal fencing restricting access to Lepeuli (Larson's) beach. From (

The Kauai County Planning Commission deferred action on the Lepeuli fencing situation. An “11th Hour” Letter to the Planning Department was received from DLNR Chairperson William Aila, Jr. which states:

Please be advised that Ms. Rowland’s memorandum dated September 9, 2011 [Author's note: date should read September 9, 2009.] (copy attached) does not represent the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ position as to ownership of trails and roads over registered land. The memorandum does not accurately reflect the Department of the Attorney General’s analysis of applicable law.

As to the agenda item referenced above, DLNR and Na Ala Hele have not approved the current location of the fence as apparently required by the permit.

Chairperson Aila’s letter is available here:2011 June 27 Aila to Planning Director

The conditions of SMA Minor Permit have not been met. DLNR has not approved the current location of the fence. The final map with the ERRATA blocking Public Access on Lot 4 has not been presented yet. How could DLNR approve a fence location when the maps keep changing? How can an applicant decide that county imposed permit conditions are moot?

In today/s The Garden Island, reporter Leo Azambuja wrote of the Planning Commission meeting held Tuesday June 28:

The planning director had prepared an eight-page report and recommendations as an answer to Spacer’s request for the commission to revoke the fence permit that it issued to land lessee and Paradise Ranch owner Bruce Laymon on Sept. 1, 2009.

“Given an evaluation of the petitioner’s allegations, the director recommends to the commission to decline issuing an order to show cause on the ground there is no reasonable cause to believe there is a failure to perform according to the conditions imposed in Special Management Area minor permit,” Dahilig said in the report signed June 20.

But Monday the department received a letter “at the 11th hour” from the DLNR concerning the Lepe‘uli trail, Dahilig said in a letter addressed to the commission.

In the letter, signed by DLNR Chair William Aila and Deputy Attorneys General Donna Kalama and William Wynhoff, the DLNR states that a memorandum dated Sept. 9, 2009 from Na Ala Hele, Hawai‘i trail and access system, does not represent the DLNR’s position as to ownership of trails and roads over registered land, nor the Department of the Attorney General’s analysis of applicable law.

As to the county SMA permit given to Paradise Ranch to build the fence, “DLNR and Na Ala Hele have not approved the current location of the fence as apparently required by the permit.”

The letter apparently lighted the ire of the planning director.

Dahilig called it unfortunate that the state waited until “the last minute” before the commission’s meeting to provide the letter.

“It is frankly disruptive to county business especially in light of previous comments provided by DLNR that the county has relied upon, and their desire to flip-flop on comments they provide to our department,” Dahilig said in the letter.

Dahilig said he had concerns over the reliability of any correspondence from DLNR, and the county would be consulting with its attorneys about appropriate measures to protect its interests and reliance on correspondence from DLNR.

Dahilig said that, in light of the statements made by Aila and the deputy attorney general, he was requesting the commission to defer any action on his report.

Read more:

Interim Planning Director’s Report on Lepeuli is available here Dahilig Report

Waioli Corporation Don Wilson has expressed interest in finally discussing the closure of the ancient coastal Alaloa with the community at next week’s Kilauea Neighborhood Association meeting, to be held next Tuesday July 5th at the Kilauea Neighborhood Center at 7 pm. Please let your mana`o be known.


On the KIUC/FFP Subject

SOURCE: Ken Taylor ( SUBHEAD: Kauai Island Utility Coop and its members - Oh there was fear. Oh there was loathing. By Andy Parx on 27 June 2011 for Parx News Daily - ( Image above: TVA dam in Knoxville, TN, built using eminent domain to remove local residents. From ( But the when KIUC CEO David Bissell "debated" anti-FERC petition originator Adam Asquith at a packed Kapa`a Library conference room on Saturday there was mostly misdirection and stonewalling on Bissell's part- especially when we asked about the origins of KIUC's dealing with Free Flow Partners (FFP). We decided to confront Bissell as to how exactly the deal came about, quoting a Honolulu Weekly article by Joan Conrow that made pretty clear that FFP had gotten the preliminary Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permits, set up shell corporations and then held a gun to KIUC's head forcing them to either deal with FFP to get dibs on the exclusive right to develop six water runs on Kaua`i for hydroelectric or FFP would tie up the rights indefinitely. Bissell at first denied that the permits were issued before KIUC's initial involvement (which Bissell said was last October) something documentation reveals to be a lie. But then, when we were allowed a followup question, he refused to say who exactly approached whom and how the deal was struck other than saying an unidentified intermediary brought the parties together, saying "what difference does it make?". We approached Bissell after the meeting seeking to get some answers to that matter as well as a couple of others. But Bissell as soon as we approached him as he spoke to others, quickly scurried to his car, saying he would not answer any more questions and leaving us, note pad in hand, chasing him through the library parking lot. So what is the truth? Well, according to Conrow's blog post today, the truth is that "FFP had already done the “poaching” by filing its applications for hydro projects on Kauai waterways prior to entering into a contract with KIUC." Not only does she clarify and reiterate what we suspected she was saying on Friday but she details how "it appears the circumstances that led to their union were more akin to a shotgun wedding than a love match. What’s more, it seems that “grab 'em with both hands” is FFP’s standard MO." Seems that, although FFP hasn't developed a single project as opponents have reiterated, they have scooped up hundreds of these "preliminary permits" across the country including "141 project sites covering all but a few miles of (an) 850-mile reach of the (Mississippi) river" causing FREC "to decline to issue additional permits on this stretch of river, and instead allow potential developers to advance their projects through the commission's licensing process." Another part of their scam seems to be to find existing dams without any hydro projects and get permits for exploring exclusive development. While we suggest you read Conrow's post today for all the gory details of that and other FFP mainland scams, what remains is yet another reason to distrust Bissell himself and everything that comes out of his mouth. The other questions we didn't get answered included one as to why the "members" of the co-op aren't entitled to examine full Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between KIUC and FFP which, as far as we have been able to determine by asking board members, is "confidential" for no particular reason other than it's confidential. One thing that Bissell refused to say was whether KIUC would commit to abandon the seeking of full FERC licensing, in light of the contention of late that KIUC/FFP has only obtained "preliminary permits" to look into hydroelectric projects on Kaua`i and not full "FERC licensing"- the latter of which is opposed by the state DLNR's water division chief and attorney general's office. It's particularity irksome that Bissell has claimed that, because there is no state process for hydro development, we need to follow the "FERC process" contained in a flow chart that was waved about at the dais. But he avoided commenting on why that process couldn’t be followed without FERC. Could it be that the reason why KIUC never approached the state to set up a state-based process for developing hydro was because FFP had already gotten the preliminary permits and was holding a gun to KIUC's head saying that they would hold up any hydro development indefinitely unless KIUC signed on the dotted line? That would sure explain a lot of things such as why all of a sudden without any advance notice KIUC was suddenly gung ho for hydroelectric development. It would also explain why they signed an MOA that "purchases" the permits and shell corporations but allows both to revert to FFP should KIUC change its mind, as will happen should the ballots be returned with more "no" than "yes" votes. We had prepared a question for Bissell on the off-chance that we would get a second round at the meeting along the lines of "given that almost everyone- including some board members- agrees that your communications with the public have so far been severely bungled with a lack of transparency, the 'no FERC, no hydro' threat and the refusal to release the MOA, is there anything you'd personally do differently if you had it to do over?". But after the a couple of hours of misinformation, threats, misdirection and, when necessary, stonewalling in reiterating all the past bunk we've been fed, the question seemed to have answered itself. See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Say No! to KIUC/FFP Deal 6/13/11 Ea O Ka Aina: TVA to build Nukelettes 6/22/11 .

Nebraska's coal & nuke habit

SUBHEAD: Nebraska's coal-fired Sheldon Power Station was built over the radioactive remains of the Hallam Nuclear Plant. By Bill Moore on 28 June 2011 for Culture Change - ( Image above: Nebraska's Hammam Nuclear Power Plant in 1962 before it was buried under the coal-fired Sheldon Power Station. From ( It is America's smallest nuclear power station. Until recently, most people had never heard of the 476 MW pressurized water reactor nestled into a bend on the turgid Missouri 20 miles north of downtown Omaha, Nebraska. Apart from the power plant, the tiny hamlet's only other claim to fame is that briefly in the 1820s it was an U.S. Army outpost on the fringe of the vast new territory Lewis and Clark had explored a decade earlier for the Jefferson Administration. A reconstruction of the original stockade, along with period re-enactors attract tourists in the summer; that is until this year when the narrow channel turned into a swollen lake flooding the wide river bottom, and in the process laying siege to Omaha Public Power District's nuclear power plant.

Commissioned in 1973, the Ft. Calhoun facility isn't Nebraska's only nuclear facility. Fifty-five miles south southeast, also on the banks of the Missouri, is the Cooper Power Station, a 770 MW boiling water reactor built by GE, owned by the Nebraska Public Power District, and operated by Entergy, which operates nine other nuclear power plants across the U.S. While Ft Calhoun's reactor has been shut down since April for scheduled refueling -- fortunately, it turns out -- the Cooper plant is, for the time being, still operational, although it too is threatened by flood waters.

These aren't the state's first ventures into the fabled atomic age. Twenty-five miles southwest of the capital in Lincoln is the coal-fired Sheldon Station operated by NPPD. Buried beneath it are some of the radioactive remains of the short-lived Hallam nuclear power plant, an early sodium graphite-moderated facility that operated for only two years between 1962 and 1964. One of ten experimental plants built by the Atomic Energy Commission at the time, corrosion problems quickly developed. Engineering and economic analysis concluded it would be too expensive to repair, so the $29 million experiment was decommissioned in 1969. The NRC estimates the materials buried in a waterproof concrete vault and covered with dirt will finally be safe to exhume for landfill reburial around 2066.

Most of the electric power used by the 1.8 million of us that call Nebraska our home, is generated by thermoelectric power stations burning Wyoming coal freighted in on 110 car trains that cross the state by the dozens every day. Stand near the Union Pacific mainline that passes through Omaha and you’ll see mile-long coal trains coming through every 20 minutes or so. Depending on scheduled plant outages for refueling, like the one going on at Ft. Calhoun just now, anywhere from 60-70% of our electrical power comes from fossil fuels with nuclear, natural gas, and some hydro providing the bulk of the rest. Nebraska lags far behind other midwestern states in construction and acquisition of renewable power from wind. Solar PV is virtually non-existent despite having as many annual hours of sunshine as San Diego and more than Gainesville, Florida.

Nebraska’s heavily fossil fuel-dependent power grid poses a dilemma for electric vehicle advocates like myself. While we can truthfully assert that compared to a conventional car running on gasoline, an electric car powered by coal still results in fewer CO2 emissions, it really comes as little consolation. Burning a gallon of gasoline to drive 25 miles produces around 22 lbs of carbon dioxide, not to mention other particulates and pollutants. Consuming 8.3 kWh of electricity to drive the same distance will generate around 8 pounds of CO2, 65% of it from coal, the rest from less carbon-intensive sources, including power from Ft. Calhoun and Cooper, which produce no CO2 during power-generation, though it is created from upstream processes such as the mining of uranium and its enrichment into radioactive fuel rods. Burning coal, itself, also releases radioactive elements, as well, along with mercury and sulfur dioxide.

Assuming one of the goals of switching to electric vehicles (EVs) is to reduce the production of global warming gases like carbon dioxide, nuclear power would seem a good choice. Not only could you generate virtually CO2-free electric power to recharge an EV’s battery pack, making more cost-effective and energy-efficient use of overnight base load power, but any of that energy you don’t use immediately could be routed into producing hydrogen gas on which you could run fuel cell electric vehicles.

That was the premise of a GM-sponsored media trip that flew a dozen or so journalists, including yours truly, to Idaho Falls, Idaho back in 2006 for a guided tour of the Energy Department’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) nuclear power research facilities. In presentations by lab scientists and outside engineers, including a representative of Entergy, the case was made that nuclear power is safe and that recycling of spent fuel rods, like the estimated 870 metric tons said to be stored in cooling pools and caskets at Ft. Calhoun, could provide many future generations with clean electric power and hydrogen gas, all with few greenhouse gas emissions, while consuming the bulk of the waste now stored in similar cooling pools, shielded caskets and oil drums around the nation.

Would that it was all that simple.

Outside of the INL research facility, which is located in a desolate sage brush valley 45 miles west of Idaho Falls proper, stand two leviathan-sized exhibits; a pair of experimental nuclear-powered jet engines, each mounted on twin flat bed train cars welded side-by-side. These are vestiges of a 1950’s era quest to create atomic-powered bombers that could loiter aloft for days and weeks along the old Soviet border without having to land and refuel, ever ready to bring nuclear Armageddon to our communist foes.

Assuming you could even get one of these monster machines into the air, what would happen if it crashed, especially on American soil, scattering radioactivity debris and fuel across farms and cities? That unanswerable question, more than anything else, doomed the program. We were told that the locomotive that used to pull the engines out to their desert test facility had to be buried because it became too radioactive to operate safely.

Image above: The rusting abandoned legacy of nuclear powered jet plane research at INL. From (

That, in my view, is the core of the problem with nuclear power. You can decommission a coal plant, recycle its old steel and bio-remediate its physical footprint, eventually turning a brownfield into a green one in only a matter of few months or years. As witnessed by the entombed Hallam plant, a nuclear power plant takes generations to rehab. Much of its physical structure is simply too dangerous to reuse for decades, if ever. Essentially one generation is getting the benefit of a facility that will become an economic and environmental liability to many generations to follow; and that is, in my view, unethical, as well as selfish and uncaring.

Granted, comparatively speaking, the footprint of a Cooper or Ft. Calhoun is relatively tiny compared to the power it can produce. The entire Cooper facility occupies just over one kilometer square. Purely in terms of energy density, it pales the output of the handful of wind turbines that might occupy a similarly sized patch of ground, and it isn’t dependent on the capriciousness of nature. But those turbines don’t represent anywhere near the same level of risk. An ice storm, a bolt of lightning, a tornado might take out some or all of a wind farm, but there would be little long-lasting environmental impact. The same can’t be said for a nuclear plant, especially one where flood waters literally flow at this very moment within inches of breaching its hastily erected defenses.

Until a few weeks ago, all this discussion for me was largely academic. Our two n-plants have been relatively well-managed, though each has had its share of problems; including the most recent two incidents where fire in a switch room cut off power to the pumps that run cooling water through the spent fuel rod storage pool. Then a few days ago, the water-filled bladder that served as a temporary berm around the reactor building collapsed after being punctured by heavy equipment working inside its perimeter, letting a couple feet of flood water inside the generator room.

While OPPD and NRC officials have been reassuring the public that there is no danger -- and several of these people are acquaintances of mine -- I personally remain uneasy, as do, I believe, a lot of other people in our community. Fukushima is still too fresh on our minds and there’s still far too much flood water yet upstream, behind 50 year-old dams, that has yet to flow past both Ft. Calhoun and Cooper, as well as three coal-fired plants also along our stretch of the Mighty Mo.

So, how do I feel now about nuclear power as it relates to EVs? As I have replied to not a few people who’ve asked me that question in the past, just about the time I start to get comfortable with the notion that maybe nuclear power is the way forward, events like Fukushima happen. [Back in the early 70’s, I lived across the river from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and used to water ski next to Three Mile Island when it was still under construction].

Now the problem is, quite literally, in my backyard. I am fairly confident that OPPD is doing the best they can to manage the situation, but their record isn’t spotless, as we are starting to learn. The NRC warned them last year that Ft. Calhoun wasn’t secure enough against a catastrophic flood and ordered them to seal up the plant better so that flood waters couldn’t get into the facility. The plant reportedly completed most of the recommended actions just in the nick of time.

The very day that a violent thunderstorm knocked out electric power last week to a large portion of our community of Papillion, just south of Omaha and 24 miles from Ft. Calhoun, I was up on my roof measuring to see how many solar panels I could mount in order not so much to cut my electric power bill -- our electric rates are already some of the lowest in the country -- but to make sure that my electric car -- a Plug In Conversions Corporation-converted 2009 Prius -- would be charged by sunlight, or at least the power it consumes at night is offset during the day by PV-generated electricity. The 1.8kW system that I envision would easily offset the 4kWh it takes for my wife’s daily commute, feasibly producing a surplus on long sunny, summer days. But it wouldn’t completely supplant what we buy from the grid.

My climbing around on my roof and estimating our daily power consumption revealed to me that we use a lot of energy, not just for the car, but for the CFL and LED lights we burn, my computers, our flat screen television, our Energy Star appliances, and our heat pump; far more than the PV system can generate. We either find more ways to reduce our personal energy consumption or we find a way to produce the power we do use more cleanly. I just don’t see nuclear power, at least as it’s currently engineered and operated, as a safe, sustainable way forward for this or future generations.

In the meantime, this radioactive equivalent of the Sword of Damocles will hang over our heads all summer, which is how long the Army Corps of Engineers say it will take to release the waters building behind the six dams they manage on the upper reaches of the Missouri. I am hopeful that the flood waters that precipitated this crisis will pass as uneventfully as possible, though those with farms, homes and businesses in the flood plain won’t be so fortunate.

What I hope we learn from this is that, at the very least, building nuclear power plants along flood-prone rivers isn’t a very bright idea. The increasingly obvious and ongoing climate change behind the flooding is likely to reinforce that realization in the coming years. Beyond that, I am committed, as personal finances permit, to begin shifting my own energy consumption away from dependence on both fossil fuels and nuclear power. The 6.1 kWh battery pack in our plug-in Prius will have a role to play in that at some point, I am sure, as will the currently empty south-facing triangle on the roof above my head. I can only hope that others will find the will and the means to do the same.

Bill Moore
• J. William "Bill" Moore is the founder and publisher of EV World. In that capacity he regularly reports on electric vehicle technology, policy and people from around the globe, including from this remote section of China's Great Wall., Inc. - P.O. Box 461132 - Papillion, Nebraska 68046 USA. Contact Bill via email at editor "at" evworld "dot" com .

Whales return to New Zealand

SUBHEAD: After an absence of more than a century Southern Right Whales are again migrating to New Zealand waters. By Stephan MEssenger on 27 June 2011 for TreeHugger - ( Image above: Fluke of a Southern Right Whale. From original article.

Southern right whales were once a common sight along the coast of New Zealand, though in the 19th century overhunting brought the species to the brink of extinction. But now, after a decades of being virtually non-existant off New Zealand's shores, wildlife experts are seeing endangered right whales finally returning to their ancestral calving grounds -- offering hope that the whales' are rediscovering a 'cultural connection' to this region after a century-long hiatus.

Before they were brought to near-extinction by whalers who considered them to be the best whale species to target -- hence the 'right' in their name -- southern right whales are thought to have numbered in the tens-of-thousands in the waters off New Zealand. In the decades that followed, however, the few surviving whales limited their calving grounds to the sub-antarctic regions to the south, despite the fact that closer to the New Zealand mainland had ancestrally been where they raised their young.

But recently a team of researchers from the University of Auckland and New Zealand Department of Conservation made a remarkable discovery; right whales seemed to be heading home.

"With the increase in numbers observed around the Auckland Islands over the last decade, we think that some individuals are re-discovering the former primary habitat around the mainland of New Zealand," researcher Scott Baker tells The New Zealand Herald.

According to PhD student Emma Carroll, the study's lead author, overhunting in centuries past may have done more than nearly wipe the whales out -- it placed their regional heritage in jeopardy as well. Through a process Carroll calls 'maternal fidelity', mother whales instill calves with knowledge of the pod's native calving grounds.

From The New Zealand Herald:

"This maternal fidelity contributed to the vulnerability of these local populations, which were quickly hunted to extinction using only open boats and hand-held harpoons," Ms Carroll said.

This heritage seemed to have been lost when right whales around mainland New Zealand were wiped out, which slowed the return of whales to their former habitat.

Researchers are hoping that the whales' return to their ancestral calving grounds near New Zealand signals a brighter future for the endangered species -- and that soon many more southern right whales will follow suite. After all, attitudes towards protecting wildlife have changed dramatically in the hundred years since the whales were last seen in the region; perhaps this time we can make it right.


Fire & Flood threaten nuke plants

SUBHEAD: The head of the NRC downplayed the risk to public safety posed by wildfires and floodwater that are threatening nuclear facilities in New Mexico and Nebraska. By Staff on 28 June 2011 for CBS News - (;lst;1) Image above: The Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station surrounded by floodwaters from the swollen Missouri River, June 27, 2011. From original article.

Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico was shut down and evacuated due to an encroaching wildfire.

Los Alamos lab still under threat from blaze

In eastern Nebraska, the Fort Calhoun power plant is surrounded by the swollen Missouri River. Omaha Public Power, which owns and operates that facility, insists that all nuclear material remains high and dry, reports CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller.

On Monday the nation's nuclear regulatory chief went to Nebraska to see for himself: "The risk is really very low at this point that anything could go wrong," said NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko.

Appearing on CBS' "The Early Show" this morning, Jaczko said the nuclear facilities in Nebraska threatened by flooding - the Fort Calhoun and Cooper stations - are "very prepared right now to deal with that situation.

"It certainly is a challenge, the water levels are very high. But all of the vital safety systems at those plants are being protected," said Jaczko. "And we've got our staff here 24/7, around the clock, to make sure that the licensees take the appropriate action.

"Certainly it is a picture that could cause one to be concerned. But the vital and important safety systems that are inside those plants are being protected. There's lots of sandbags and other kinds of barriers on all the vital doors to make sure that water can't get into places that it shouldn't be."

Anchor Chris Wragge asked about the likelihood of an emergency similar to what occurred at the Fukushima-Da-ichi plant in Japan which was crippled by floodwaters that killed the electrical systems and the cooling systems, creating a near-meltdown.

"That's not what we anticipate," said Jaczko. "All of the vital systems, the electrical distribution systems, are being protected. They have emergency backup diesel generators in the event that they would lose their normal power supplies. So we think that all the right systems are in place. But just to be sure we have our inspectors here making sure, 'round the clock, that all the right precautions are being taken."

Jaczko also said the NRC will render whatever assistance is necessary to the Department of Energy, which oversees the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Aging nuclear plants a safety risk?

According to a year-long investigation by the Associated Press, the country is far from prepared for a nuclear emergency. Citing the NRC's own data, the report suggests America's nuclear power facilities are outdated and, in some cases, a safety risk.

The report claims 66 power plants have been relicensed to run 20 years beyond their original shelf life, often in once-rural areas that have quadrupled in population since 1980.

Even more alarming, many of these plants are so close to large populations that, in the event of an emergency, a large-scale evacuation would be next to impossible to execute ... especially in a place like Indian Point, just 36 miles from New York City.

"At a time when the nuclear industry is under considerable public scrutiny, this kind of information really doesn't do anything to build public trust or confidence in the nuclear industry," James Acton, senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told "The Early Show."

"I think the thing that worries me most is, what happens if there is an event similar to Fukushima?" said Acton.

The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant was flooded by a tsunami earlier this year, and the NRC told Americans living in Japan to evacuate outside a 50-mile radius ... well above the 10-mile radius standard set up by the NRC 30 year ago.

Fukushima children to receive radiation meters Complete coverage: Disaster in Japan

The AP report concludes with an aging nuclear program - poor maintenance has led to leaks of the radioactive chemical tritium in at least three-quarters of all U.S. nuclear facilities, and has even contaminated drinking water in Minnesota and Illinois.

"I think it's cause for careful public scrutiny and clear transparent answers from the nuclear industry and from the NRC," said Acton.

AP's investigation: Feds, industry rewrite U.S. nuclear history Population density around nuke plants soars Radioactive leaks found at 75% of US nuke sites U.S. nuke regulators weaken safety rules

When asked on "The Early Show" about emergency plans at U.S. nuclear power stations, Jaczko said, "We have a very robust emergency preparedness program. And let me say this: That program really only kind of kicks in after the many, many layers of protection and defense that we have to prevent any kind of release of radiation to the public. All of those systems would have to fail before we would ever really get into a situation to need an evacuation.

"We require every plant in the United States to test those programs every two years. It's a very comprehensive exercise involving state governments, local governments, the NRC, as well as the utilities. So it's a very robust program that is there to ensure, in that very unlikely event, that the people will be protected. "

Wragge also asked Jaczko to respond the AP report's finding that three-quarters of U.S. nuclear power sites have leaked the radioactive isotope tridium.

"Well, first and foremost, this is really not an acceptable situation for any nuclear power plant to have this kind of leaking tridium," he replied. "So we're working with all of the plants that do to make sure they either repair the piping systems or remediate the area to get rid of the ground water in the most effective and most safe way.

"But fundamentally, it's not something where the public is really being threatened from a health standpoint. It's really, right now, just more of a challenge on the reactor sites, and has the potential, if it's not mitigated, to ultimately have some very low-level impacts off the site. But, we're comfortable that the right steps are being taken to prevent that from ever happening."

Ft Calhoun Nuclear Berm Fails SUBHEAD: A 2000' long inflatable berm protecting the nuclear plant collapsed after being punctured by heavy equipement. By AP Staff on 27 June 2011 for Associated Press - ( A berm holding the flooded Missouri River back from a Nebraska nuclear power station collapsed early Sunday, but federal regulators said they were monitoring the situation and there was no danger.

The Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station shut down in early April for refueling, and there is no water inside the plant, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said. Also, the river is not expected to rise higher than the level the plant was designed to handle. NRC spokesman Victor Dricks said the plant remains safe.

The federal commission had inspectors at the plant 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Omaha when the 2,000-foot (610-meter) berm collapsed about 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Water surrounded the auxiliary and containment buildings at the plant, it said in a statement.

The Omaha Public Power District has said the complex will not be reactivated until the flooding subsides. Its spokesman, Jeff Hanson, said the berm wasn't critical to protecting the plant but a crew will look at whether it can be patched.

"That was an additional layer of protection we put in," Hanson said.

The berm's collapse didn't affect the reactor shutdown cooling or the spent fuel pool cooling, but the power supply was cut after water surrounded the main electrical transformers, the NRC said. Emergency generators powered the plant until an off-site power supply was connected Sunday afternoon, according to OPPD.

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said the loss of the berm at Fort Calhoun nuclear plant doesn't threaten the safety of the plant.

"There are other structures and systems in place that can ensure they will continue operating safely," Jaczko said.

Jaczko will tour the Fort Calhoun plant Monday. His visit was scheduled last week. On Sunday, he toured Nebraska's other nuclear power plant, which sits along the Missouri River near Brownville. Cooper nuclear power plant is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) south of Omaha and run by the Nebraska Public Power District.

Jaczko said he can't predict what the river will do this summer but that NPPD and OPPD seem to be taking appropriate steps to defend against flooding.

Jaczko spent much of his tour of Cooper asking NPPD officials and the NRC's local inspectors questions about the plant and this year's flooding. He said his visit was designed to gather information.

NPPD officials have been monitoring river levels closely during the flooding, and they have already brought in more than 5,000 tons of sand to build barricades protecting the Cooper plant, the onsite power substations and the plant's access roads.

Accessing critical parts of the plant requires visitors to use ladders or steel stairs to climb over sandbag barriers both outside and inside the doors. When the Jaczko saw one of Cooper's two back-up diesel generators, he had to climb over three different sandbag barriers to get there.

The Cooper plant remains dry because it sits at an elevation above the river level. The base of Cooper and its storage area for used nuclear fuel is 903 feet (275.23 meters) above sea level while on Sunday the river was just above 899 feet.

Cooper would be shut down if the river rose to 902 feet (274.93 meters) above sea level, but officials say that is unlikely.

"This plant is designed to deal with a flood much higher than we are seeing - 906 feet," Jaczko said.

Both nuclear plants issued flooding alerts earlier this month, although they were routine as the river's rise has been expected. Cooper has been operating at full capacity.

Flooding remains a concern all along the Missouri because of massive amounts of water the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released from upstream reservoirs. The river is expected to rise as much as 7 feet (2 meters) above flood stage in much of Nebraska and Iowa and as much as 10 feet (3 meters) over flood stage in parts of Missouri.

The corps expects the river to remain high at least into August because of heavy spring rains in the upper Plains and substantial Rocky Mountain snowpack melting into the river basin.

Fire Crews fight Los Alamos blaze By Staff on 27 June 2011 for Environment News Service - ( Image above: Fire crews fight Las Conchas wildfire threatening Los Alamos nuclear facility. From ( Fire crews have contained a wildfire in a remote outdoor area of Los Alamos National Laboratory, which is responsible for ensuring the safety, security, and reliability of the nation's nuclear weapons.

Emergency officials say the Las Conchas fire, which had burned to the southern edge of New Mexico State Route 4 at the lab's southwest boundary, crossed the road to the north early this afternoon.

Air crews dumped water at the site within the lab's Technical Area 49 and brought the fire under control.

The wildfire forced a shutdown of the Los Alamos National Laboratory today and the lab will remain closed on Tuesday. The city of Los Alamos is under a mandatory evacuation order.

Las Conchas wildfire in the Santa Fe National Forest, June 26, 2011 (Photo by MyEyeSees)

Lab officials said in a statement today, "All hazardous and radioactive materials remain accounted for and are appropriately protected, as are key Lab facilities such as its proton accelerator and supercomputing centers.

"It's been a very long night for the fire crews," said Lab Director Charles McMillan. "There has been an outpouring of support from the region, the state, and the federal government and for that we are profoundly grateful."

Environmental specialists are mobilized and monitoring air quality, but say the principal concern is smoke. A plume of black and grey smoke was visible as far away as Santa Fe, 35 miles to the southeast and also in Albuquerque, 98 miles to the south.

Technical Area 49, where the fire entered Los Alamos National Laboratory property, is used by the lab's Hazardous Devices Team as a training area and as an isolated location for blowing up suspect packages.

The site is also the location of the laboratory's Antenna and Pulse Power Outdoor Range User Facility, where outdoor tests are carried out on materials and equipment components that involve generating and receiving short bursts of high-energy, broad-spectrum microwaves.

TA-49 is surrounded by a locked security fence, which prevents accidental intrusion. When experiments are conducted, personnel install barriers that exclude unauthorized individuals from access to areas where unsafe levels of energy could be encountered.

Laboratory officials said tonight that the area had been thinned of ground fuels in recent years.

"About one acre burned and the lab has detected no off-site releases of contamination," the lab statement said. "No other fires are currently burning on lab property, no facilities face immediate threat, and all nuclear and hazardous materials are accounted for and protected."

"Environmental sites are being monitored and air quality experts are coordinating with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency," the lab stated.

The Las Conchas fire started on private land at 1:00 pm Sunday. Red flag conditions - hot temperatures, low humidity and high winds - contributed to the intense fire behavior and rapid fire growth, fire officials said today.

The wildfire is burning in the Jemez Ranger District, Santa Fe National Forest, about 12 miles southwest of Los Alamos. The flames have charred 43,597 acres in forests, canyons, and mesas to the south and west of the national lab.

The town of White Rock remains under voluntary evacuation. Cochiti Mesa, Las Conchas, Bandelier National Monument, and campgrounds near the fire were evacuated Sunday. About 100 residents evacuated from Cochiti Mesa and Las Conchas. Power and phone lines are down in the area.

The Bandelier National Monument will be closed for at least three days due to the fire.

The cause of the Las Conchas fire is unknown; it is under investigation.


Hawaii Hobbles Army Training

SOURCE: Shannon Rudolph ( SUBHEAD: Abercrombie requires a review of helicopters' environmental impact, forcing an $11 million move to Colorado. Thank you Governor. By William Cole on 27 June 2011 for the Star Advertiser - ( Image above: Blackhawk helicopters kick up red dirt as they deliver Hummers to Wheeler Air Force Base. From ( The Army is shifting at least some high-altitude helicopter training from Hawaii to Colorado — at a taxpayer cost of up to $11 million — following an additional environmental review imposed by the state. The regulatory process has already delayed training by four months, creating a tight deadline for Wheeler Army Airfield pilots preparing for a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan in January. Now Gov. Neil Abercrombie has informed the Army it must conduct a state environmental assessment in addition to a federal environmental assessment to use six existing landing zones high on the slopes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. The Army said it will comply, but is asking Abercrombie for permission as soon as possible so air crews of Wheeler's 25th Combat Aviation Brigade can train closer to home. Brigade commander Col. Frank Tate said in an interview Friday that the latest difficulty in securing permits to conduct the high-altitude training "is going to cause a significant issue for us." "We are putting together all of our plans for the contingency to send folks to Fort Carson, Colo. — which of course will have a significant impact on the personnel tempo (time demands) for all the soldiers," Tate said. "We'll have to go to Carson and spend significant time there to get this training completed." The Army originally wanted to conduct the high-altitude training on Hawaii island from February to August, but community groups complained that the Army's federal environmental assessment, released in December, was inadequate. The assessment addressed impacts such as noise, disturbance to the land and effects on hunters and hikers caused by the Army helicopters flying over and landing on state conservation land. The Army revised its environmental assessment and hoped to get a permit this month from the state Land Board. The latest problem faced by the Army in securing a permit stems from a state attorney general's opinion — detailed in a June 20 letter from Abercrombie to Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski, head of the Army in the Pacific — that the Army needs to complete Hawaii environmental reviews for the training in addition to the federal studies it already conducted. Abercrombie and Wiercinski had previously discussed the issue. Abercrombie said in his June 20 letter, "I'm certain with a little good will and focused attention we can get this (state environmental study) done with dispatch." Abercrombie spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz took questions from the Star-Advertiser but did not return any responses. Wiercinski has been talking with Abercrombie to see whether the permit matter can be resolved, Tatesaid. Tate estimated the state process could take three to four months. Brigade soldiers also have to conduct other required training. If a state special permit is granted in the near future, the unit will train whatever amount of soldiers it can on Hawaii island. "Because of the amount of time that even the most optimistic estimates would have for us to complete the state process, it would preclude us from getting (the full) three three-week training periods in prior to us needing to start loading boats and preparing to move equipment towards Afghanistan," Tate said. The Army is promising to complete the state environmental review while also seeking an immediate special use permit from the Department of Land and Natural Resources to conduct what training it still can on Hawaii island to mitigate the mainland training cost and time. In the meantime, the Army said it will begin sending pilots, maintenance crews and helicopters to Fort Carson, near Colorado Springs, where high-altitude training is permitted. Eight UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters at a minimum will be shipped to Colorado starting in August to be used for training, and if the brigade can't borrow on the mainland the latest variant of CH-47 Chinooks it uses, at least four of the big, twin-rotor helicopters from Hawaii will be sent to Fort Carson as well, officials said. More helicopters could follow. A total of 260 Chinook and Black Hawk pilots are required to go through day and night high-altitude training before the brigade ships its 95 Hawaii-based choppers in October for the deployment to southern Afghanistan. Tate said the $11 million potential cost to conduct all of the training in Colorado is significant but that so is the additional time his soldiers will have to spend away from their families. The Schofield Barracks brigade is deploying to Kandahar, Helmand and other provinces in southern Afghanistan with 2,600 Hawaii soldiers and 26 two-seat OH-58D Kiowa Warriors, 14 Chinooks and about 55 Black Hawks based here. The high-altitude flights are not only required by the Army, but also represent "very important lifesaving training," Tate said. Helicopters frequently deliver combat soldiers to high-altitude locations in Afghanistan, where aerodynamics and terrain make flying challenging. Tate said he commanded an aviation task force in Kandahar in 2005, "and we did a great deal of missions high up on the mountains, inserting Special Forces into pinnacles high on the mountain, inserting (Army) Rangers, inserting conventional infantry and resupplying lookout points many times a week. It was routine and frequently at night." High-altitude training involves touching down repeatedly and briefly on a variety of landscapes, including slopes and pinnacles at the six landing zones between 7,889 feet and 11,539 feet on the Hawaii County mountains. The smaller Kiowa Warriors, which aren't used at the same elevations as the bigger choppers, fulfill their requirements at Pohakuloa Training Area's 6,000- to 6,500-foot elevation, Tate said. The brigade conducted the same high-altitude training on Hawaii in 2003, 2004 and 2006 on individual state permits prior to Afghanistan and Iraq deployments. With the increasing focus on Afghanistan, the Army standardized its high-altitude training. As a result, the Army said it undertook the federal environmental assessment for the Hawaii island training. A draft finding of "no significant impact" for the training was released by the Army in April. Tate said the Army "believed originally that the (federal environmental) process was adequate. As we got further into the process, some people began to say that they thought we also should do the state process, and at that point is when we said fine, we're willing to also do the state process. However, then we will need to do permits to train now." According to Abercrombie's June 20 letter, the Army can revise the federal assessment to reference Hawaii law, work with the DLNR to submit a draft, respond to comments after a 30-day comment period, prepare a final assessment and submit it to the Land Board. The Army was able to provide high-altitude training March 21 through April 1 for about 11 pilots on a state special-use permit it was granted to study noise and the ground effects of the flights on Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, Tate said. Tate also sent about 40 pilots to the Colorado Army National Guard's High-Altitude Army Aviation Training Site west of Denver for high-altitude training, but that training fulfills only the daytime requirement because the program doesn't offer night training, he said. About seven instructor pilots were sent to Fort Carson to help train other units, and they have met the high-altitude requirement, but Tate said the vast majority of his pilots still need the training. Tate said he's finalizing which pilots to send to the mainland and when, and is trying to "borrow" aircraft already there. "So we're still working through the plan," he said. "We're trying to obviously minimize the cost to the Army because nobody had any money just lying around extra to do this." .

Birth Defects from Roundup

SUBHEAD: Scientists say Monsanto's popular herbicide, linked to GMO products, causes birth defects in mammals. By Lucia Graves on 24 June 2011 for Huffington Post - ( Image above: Commercial spraying of RoundUp on food crops genetically designed to withstand the herbicide is prevalent. From ( The chemical at the heart of the planet’s most widely used herbicide -- Roundup weedkiller, used in farms and gardens across the U.S. -- is coming under more intense scrutiny following the release of a new report calling for a heightened regulatory response around its use.

Critics have argued for decades that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and other herbicides used around the globe, poses a serious threat to public health. Industry regulators, however, appear to have consistently overlooked their concerns.

A comprehensive review of existing data released this month by Earth Open Source, an organization that uses open-source collaboration to advance sustainable food production, suggests that industry regulators in Europe have known for years that glyphosate, originally introduced by American agricultural biotechnology giant Monsanto in 1976, causes birth defects in the embryos of laboratory animals.

Founded in 2009, Earth Open Source is a non-profit organization incorporated in the U.K. but international in scope. Its three directors, specializing in business, technology and genetic engineering, work pro-bono along with a handful of young volunteers. Partnering with half a dozen international scientists and researchers, the group drew its conclusions in part from studies conducted in a number of locations, including Argentina, Brazil, France and the United States.

Earth Open Source’s study is only the latest report to question the safety of glyphosate, which is the top-ranked herbicide used in the United States. Exact figures are hard to come by because the U.S. Department of Agriculture stopped updating its pesticide use database in 2008. The EPA estimates that the agricultural market used 180 to 185 million pounds of glyphosate between 2006 and 2007, while the non-agricultural market used 8 to 11 million pounds between 2005 and 2007, according to its Pesticide Industry Sales & Usage Report for 2006-2007 published in February, 2011.

The Earth Open Source study also reports that by 1993 the herbicide industry, including Monsanto, knew that visceral anomalies such as dilation of the heart could occur in rabbits at low and medium-sized doses. The report further suggests that since 2002, regulators with the European Commission have known that glyphosate causes developmental malformations in lab animals.

Even so, the commission’s health and consumer division published a final review report of glyphosate in 2002 that approved its use in Europe for the next 10 years.

As recently as last year, the German Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BLV), a government agency conducting a review of glyphosate, told the European Commission that there was no evidence the compound causes birth defects, according to the report.

The agency reached that conclusion despite almost half a dozen industry studies that found glyphosate produced fetal malformations in lab animals, as well as an independent study from 2007 that found that Roundup induces adverse reproductive effects in the male offspring of a certain kind of rat.

German regulators declined to respond in detail for this story because they say they only learned of the Earth Open Source report last week. The regulators emphasized that their findings were based on public research and literature.

Although the European Commission originally planned to review glyphosate in 2012, it decided late last year not to do so until 2015. And it won’t review the chemical under more stringent, up-to-date standards until 2030, according to the report.

The European Commission told HuffPost that it wouldn’t comment on whether it was already aware of studies demonstrating the toxicity of glyphosate in 2002. But it said the commission was aware of the Earth Open Source study and had discussed it with member states.

“Germany concluded that study does not change the current safety assessment of gylphosate,” a commission official told HuffPost in an email. “This view is shared by all other member states.”

John Fagan, a doctor of molecular and cell biology and biochemistry and one of the founders of Earth Open Source, acknowledged his group’s report offers no new laboratory research. Rather, he said the objective was for scientists to compile and evaluate the existing evidence and critique the regulatory response.

“We did not do the actual basic research ourselves,” said Fagan. “The purpose of this paper was to bring together and to critically evaluate all the evidence around the safety of glyphosate and we also considered how the regulators, particularly in Europe, have looked at that.”

For its part, Earth Open Source said that government approval of the ubiquitous herbicide has been rash and problematic.

"Our examination of the evidence leads us to the conclusion that the current approval of glyphosate and Roundup is deeply flawed and unreliable," wrote the report’s authors. "What is more, we have learned from experts familiar with pesticide assessments and approvals that the case of glyphosate is not unusual.

"They say that the approvals of numerous pesticides rest on data and risk assessments that are just as scientifically flawed, if not more so," the authors added. "This is all the more reason why the Commission must urgently review glyphosate and other pesticides according to the most rigorous and up-to-date standards."

Monsanto spokeswoman Janice Person said in a statement that the Earth Open Source report presents no new findings.

"Based on our initial review, the Earth Open Source report does not appear to contain any new health or toxicological evidence regarding glyphosate,” Person said.

“Regulatory authorities and independent experts around the world agree that glyphosate does not cause adverse reproductive effects in adult animals or birth defects in offspring of these adults exposed to glyphosate," she said, "even at doses far higher than relevant environmental or occupational exposures.”

While Roundup has been associated with deformities in a host of laboratory animals, its impact on humans remains unclear. One laboratory study done in France in 2005 found that Roundup and glyphosate caused the death of human placental cells. Another study, conducted in 2009, found that Roundup caused total cell death in human umbilical, embryonic and placental cells within 24 hours. Yet researchers have conducted few follow-up studies.

“Obviously there’s a limit to what’s appropriate in terms of testing poison on humans,” said Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, which advocates against genetically modified food. “But if you look at the line of converging evidence, it points to a serious problem. And if you look at the animal feeding studies with genetically modified Roundup ready crops, there’s a consistent theme of reproductive disorders, which we don’t know the cause for because follow-up studies have not been done.”

“More independent research is needed to evaluate the toxicity of Roundup and glyphosate,” he added, “and the evidence that has already accumulated is sufficient to raise a red flag.”

Authorities have criticized Monsanto in the past for soft-pedaling Roundup. In 1996 New York State's Attorney General sued Monsanto for describing Roundup as "environmentally friendly" and "safe as table salt." Monsanto, while not admitting any wrongdoing, agreed to stop using the terms for promotional purposes and paid New York state $250,000 to settle the suit.

Regulators in the United States have said they are aware of the concerns surrounding glyphosate. The Environmental Protection Agency, which is required to reassess the safety and effectiveness all pesticides on a 15-year cycle through a process called registration review, is currently examining the compound.

“EPA initiated registration review of glyphosate in July 2009,” the EPA told HuffPost in a written statement. “EPA will determine if our previous assessments of this chemical need to be revised based on the results of this review. EPA issued a notice to the company [Monsanto] to submit human health and ecotoxicity data in September 2010.”

The EPA said it will also review a “wide range of information and data from other independent researchers” including Earth Open Source.

The agency's Office of Pesticide Programs is in charge of the review and has set a deadline of 2015 for determining if registration modifications need to be made or if the herbicide should continue to be sold at all.

Though skirmishes over the regulation of glyphosate are playing out at agencies across the U.S. and around the world, Argentina is at the forefront of the battle.


The Earth Open Source report, "Roundup and birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark?" comes years after Argentine scientists and residents targeted glyphosate, arguing that it caused health problems and environmental damage.

Farmers and others in Argentina use the weedkiller primarily on genetically modified Roundup Ready soy, which covers nearly 50 million acres, or half of the country's cultivated land area. In 2009 farmers sprayed that acreage with an estimated 200 million liters of glyphosate.

The Argentine government helped pull the country out of a recession in the 1990s in part by promoting genetically modified soy. Though it was something of a miracle for poor farmers, several years after the first big harvests residents near where the soy cop grew began reporting health problems, including high rates of birth defects and cancers, as well as the losses of crops and livestock as the herbicide spray drifted across the countryside.

Such reports gained further traction after an Argentine government scientist, Andres Carrasco conducted a study, "Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Produce Teratogenic Effects on Vertebrates by Impairing Retinoic Acid Signaling" in 2009.

The study, published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology in 2010, found that glyphosate causes malformations in frog and chicken embryos at doses far lower than those used in agricultural spraying. It also found that malformations caused in frog and chicken embryos by Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate were similar to human birth defects found in genetically modified soy-producing regions.

"The findings in the lab are compatible with malformations observed in humans exposed to glyphosate during pregnancy," wrote Carrasco, director of the Laboratory of Molecular Embryology at the University of Buenos Aires. "I suspect the toxicity classification of glyphosate is too low.”

“In some cases this can be a powerful poison," he concluded.

Argentina has not made any federal reforms based on this research and has not discussed the research publicly, Carrasco told HuffPost, except to mount a "close defense of Monsanto and it partners."

The Ministry of Science and Technology has moved to distance the government from the study, telling media at the time the study was not commissioned by the government and had not been reviewed by scientific peers.

Ignacio Duelo, spokesman for the the Ministry of Science and Technology’s National Council for Scientific and Technical Research [CONICET], told HuffPost in an statement that while Carrasco is one of its researchers, CONICET has not vouched for or assessed his work.

Duelo said that the Ministry of Science is examining Carrasco’s report as part of a study of the possible harmful effects of the glyphosate. Officials, he added, are as yet unable to “reach a definitive conclusion on the effects of glyphosate on human health, though more studies are recommended, as more data is necessary.”


After Carrasco announced his findings in 2009, the Defense Ministry banned planting of genetically modified glyphosate-resistant soy on lands it rents to farmers, and a group of environmental lawyers petitioned the Supreme Court of Argentina to implement a national ban on the use of glyphosate, including Monsanto's Roundup product. But the ban was never adopted.

"A ban, if approved, would mean we couldn't do agriculture in Argentina," said Guillermo Cal, executive director of CASAFE, Argentina's association of fertilizer companies, in a statement at the time.

In March 2010, a regional court in Argentina's Santa Fe province banned the spraying of glyphosate and other herbicides near populated areas. A month later, the provincial government of Chaco province issued a report on health statistics from La Leonesa. The report, which was carried in the leftist Argentinian newspaper Página 12, showed that from 2000 to 2009, following the expansion of genetically-modified soy and rice crops in the region, the childhood cancer rate tripled in La Leonesa and the rate of birth defects increased nearly fourfold over the entire province.


Back in the United States, Don Huber, an emeritus professor of plant pathology at Purdue University, found that genetically-modified crops used in conjunction with Roundup contain a bacteria that may cause animal miscarriages.

After studying the bacteria, Huber wrote Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in February warning that the "pathogen appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings."

The bacteria is particularly prevalent in corn and soybean crops stricken by disease, according to Huber, who asked Vilsack to stop deregulating Roundup Ready crops. Critics such as Huber are particularly wary of those crops because scientists have genetically altered them to be immune to Roundup -- and thus allow farmers to spray the herbicide liberally onto a field, killing weeds but allowing the crop itself to continue growing.

Monsanto is not the only company making glyphosate. China sells glyphosate to Argentina at a very low price, Carrasco said, and there are more than one hundred commercial formulations in the market. But Monsanto’s Roundup has the longest list of critics, in part because it dominates the market.

The growth in adoption of genetically modified crops has exploded since their introduction in 1996. According to Monsanto, an estimated 89 percent of domestic soybean crops were Roundup Ready in 2010, and as of 2010, there were 77.4 million acres of Roundup Ready soybeans planted, according to the Department of Agriculture.

In his letter to the Agriculture Department, Huber also commented on the herbicide, saying that the bacteria that he’s concerned about appears to be connected to use of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup.

"It is well-documented that glyphosate promotes soil pathogens and is already implicated with the increase of more than 40 plant diseases; it dismantles plant defenses by chelating vital nutrients; and it reduces the bioavailability of nutrients in feed, which in turn can cause animal disorders," he wrote.

Huber said the Agriculture Department wrote him in early May and that he has had several contacts with the agency since then. But there’s little evidence that government officials have any intention of conducting the “multi-agency investigation” Huber requested.

Part of the problem may be that the USDA oversees genetically modified crops while the EPA watches herbicides, creating a potential regulatory loophole for products like Roundup, which relies on both to complete the system. When queried, USDA officials emphasized that they do not regulate pesticides or herbicides and declined to comment publicly on Huber's letter.

A spokesman eventually conceded their scientists do study glyphosate. "USDA’s Agricultural Research Service’s research with glyphosate began shortly after the discovery of its herbicidal activity in the mid 1970s," said the USDA in a statement. "All of our research has been made public and much has gone through the traditional peer review process.”

While Huber acknowledged his research is far from conclusive, he said regulatory agencies must seek answers now. “There is much research that needs to be done yet,” he said. “But we can't afford to wait the three to five years for peer-reviewed papers.”

While Huber’s claims have roiled the agricultural world and the blogosphere alike, he has fueled skeptics by refusing to make his research public or identify his fellow researchers, who he claims could suffer substantial professional backlash from academic employers who received research funding from the biotechnology industry.

At Purdue University, six of Huber’s former colleagues pointedly distanced themselves from his findings, encouraging crop producers and agribusiness personnel “to speak with University Extension personnel before making changes in crop production practices that are based on sensationalist claims.”

Since it first introduced the chemical to the world in the 1970s, Monsanto has netted billions on its best-selling herbicide, though the company has faced stiffer competition since its patent expired in 2000 and it is reportedly working to revamp its strategy.

In a lengthy email, Person, the Monsanto spokeswoman, responded to critics, suggesting that the economic and environmental benefits of Roundup were being overlooked:

The authors of the report create an account of glyphosate toxicity from a selected set of scientific studies, while they ignored much of the comprehensive data establishing the safety of the product. Regulatory agencies around the world have concluded that glyphosate is not a reproductive toxin or teratogen (cause of birth defects) based on in-depth review of the comprehensive data sets available.

Earth Open Source authors take issue with the decision by the European Commission to place higher priority on reviewing other pesticide ingredients first under the new EU regulations, citing again the flawed studies as the rationale. While glyphosate and all other pesticide ingredients will be reviewed, the Commission has decided that glyphosate appropriately falls in a category that doesn’t warrant immediate attention.

“The data was there but the regulators were glossing over it," said John Fagan of Earth Open Source, "and as a result it was accepted in ways that we consider really questionable.”


Although the EPA has said it wants to evaluate more evidence of glyphosate's human health risk as part of a registration review program, the agency is not doing any studies of its own and is instead relying on outside data -- much of which comes from the agricultural chemicals industry it seeks to regulate.

"EPA ensures that each registered pesticide continues to meet the highest standards of safety to protect human health and the environment," the agency told HuffPost in a statement. "These standards have become stricter over the years as our ability to evaluate the potential effects of pesticides has increased. The Agency placed glyphosphate into registration review. Registration review makes sure that as the ability to assess risks and as new information becomes available, the Agency carefully considers the new information to ensure pesticides do not pose risks of concern to people or the environment."

Agribusiness giants, including Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Syngenta and BASF, will, as part of a 19-member task force, generate much of the data the EPA is seeking. But the EPA has emphasized that the task force is only “one of numerous varied third-party sources that EPA will rely on for use in its registration review.”

The EPA is hardly the only industry regulator that relies heavily on data supplied by the agrochemical industry itself.

“The regulation of pesticides has been significantly skewed towards the manufacturers interests where state-of-the-art testing is not done and adverse findings are typically distorted or denied,” said Jeffrey Smith, of the Institute for Responsible Technology. “The regulators tend to use the company data rather than independent sources, and the company data we have found to be inappropriately rigged to force the conclusion of safety.”

“We have documented time and time again scientists who have been fired, stripped of responsibilities, denied funding, threatened, gagged and transferred as a result of the pressure put on them by the biotech industry,” he added.

Such suppression has sometimes grown violent, Smith noted. Last August, when Carrasco and his team of researchers went to give a talk in La Leonesa they were intercepted by a mob of about a hundred people. The attack landed two people in the hospital and left Carrasco and a colleague cowering inside a locked car. Witnesses said the angry crowd had ties to powerful economic interests behind the local agro-industry and that police made little effort to interfere with the beating, according to the human rights group Amnesty International.

Fagan told HuffPost that among developmental biologists who are not beholden to the chemical industry or the biotechnology industry, there is strong recognition that Carrasco’s research is credible.

"For me as a scientist, one of the reasons I made the effort to do this research into the literature was to really satisfy the question myself as to where the reality of the situation lies,” he added. “Having thoroughly reviewed the literature on this, I feel very comfortable in standing behind the conclusions Professor Carrasco came to and the broader conclusions that we come to in our paper

“We can’t figure out how regulators could have come to the conclusions that they did if they were taking a balanced look at the science, even the science that was done by the chemical industry itself.”


Ft. Calhoun Reactor Endangered

SOURCE: Brad Parsons ( SUBHEAD: On Sunday, in the pre-dawn hours, a piece of heavy equipment deflated temporary rubber berm protecting nuclear reactor. By Matthew L. Wald on 26 June 2011 in New York Times - ( Image above: From ().
The reactor, Cooper Station, is one of two nuclear plants on the Missouri River that are threatened by flooding. The second reactor, Fort Calhoun, 85 miles north, came under increased pressure for a brief period on Sunday. Before dawn, a piece of heavy equipment nicked an eight-foot-high, 2,000-foot-long temporary rubber berm, and it deflated. Water also began to approach electrical equipment, which prompted operators to cut themselves off from the grid and start up diesel generators. (It returned to grid power later Sunday.) Both nuclear plants appeared prepared to weather the flooding, their operators and federal government regulators said.

Fort Calhoun was shut down in April for refueling and stayed closed because of predictions of flooding. Plant officials say the facility is designed to remain secure at a river level of up to 1,014 feet above sea level. The water level stabilized at 1,006.5 feet on Sunday, according to the Omaha Public Power District, the operator of the Fort Calhoun plant.

Cooper Station, which is owned by the Nebraska Public Power District, is still running. Managers brought in two tankerloads of extra diesel fuel and have stocked up on all the other consumable materials the plant uses, including hydrogen and carbon dioxide, in case of problems bringing in materials by truck.

At Cooper on Sunday, plant officials led Gregory B. Jaczko, the N.R.C. chairman, on a tour, past thousands of feet of new berms and buildings where every doorway was barricaded with four-foot-high water barriers that are intended to survive even if an earthquake hits during a flood. Mr. Jaczko also toured the building that holds the diesel generators, which would supply vital electricity if the water knocked out the power grid.

Getting into that space required some doing. First, Mr. Jaczko climbed over a makeshift metal staircase to get over the flood barrier at the entrance to the building. Then, past a security guard armed with a military-style rifle, he stepped through a doorway into a small hallway blocked with a four-foot-high flood barrier. Visitors climbed three steps up an A-frame ladder, and then took a long step onto a temporary wooden platform, stepped over the four-foot-high barrier onto another platform, and then down a ladder on the other side.

“And if the water gets in here, what would be the result?” Mr. Jaczko asked.

“We’ve got a sump pump over here,” said Dan Goodman, the assistant operations manager, leading him around to the other side of the giant diesel generator, which is the size of a tractor-trailer.

“One of the things we learned at the Fukushima event is the importance of dealing with natural hazards,” Mr. Jaczko said at a news conference. “Fundamentally, this is a plant that is operating safely.”

Twice an hour, 48 times a day, a technician with a tape measure gauges the water level at the water intake building, and other operators check the level recorded by the Army Corps of Engineers four miles upstream, in Brownville. Plant workers walk the levees near the river and add sandbags where they find soft spots or leaks.

Flooding is always a potential risk for nuclear reactors, but the threat has a higher profile lately because of the tsunami that hit the Fukushima Daiichi reactors in northeastern Japan in March.

Nuclear reactors require electric power to pump cooling water even when they are shut down, and at Fukushima, the tsunami destroyed the connection to the electric grid, flooded the emergency diesel generators, washed away the extra tanks of diesel fuel and damaged the switches that would have controlled the flow of electricity from the emergency generators to pumps, valves and other vital equipment.